Taking care of your elderly loved ones is easier said than done. With busy lives, children and stressful schedules, many of us rely on social care systems that are often stretched and sometimes unable to provide the extra care and contact we'd like our elderly family members receive.
Social care providers witness first hand the detrimental effects of social isolation and loneliness on the elderly. It is a growing issue in the UK, with over 50% of those aged above 75 living alone. Isolation impacts a person’s mental and emotional health; it leads to depression, sleeplessness and the increased chance of developing dementia. It also impacts a person’s physical health and has been compared to being as harmful to a person as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.
In December 2016, elder care organisation VIDA embarked on a research project to find out more about loneliness amongst the elderly in the UK. They found that 3 out of 5 people were not visiting their elderly relatives on Christmas day, and although 1 in 3 people visited elderly relatives who needed care, they could only do so once a month or less.
We can all benefit from talking and connecting across age groups, so we are encouraging everyone to reach out to elderly loved ones and others in the community who may be feeling lonely or isolated. Here are some positive things you can do to connect with the older people in your community:
1. Pick up the phone or pop in to see your elderly loved ones, neighbours and friends. Take time out of your day to talk with them and it will help you to slow down for a moment too.
2. Encourage elderly family members and neighbours to join local groups, clubs or health centres. Building social connections and networks can help establish a sense of belonging.
3. Join Age UK's befriending service to be matched with an older person either over the phone or in person.
4. Visit as often as you can and take able loved ones or neighbours for outings. A change of scenery can lift the soul.
5. Combine getting fit with doing good and run regularly to see an isolated older person through Good Gym.
6. Suggest adopting a low-maintenance pet. Caring for a pet and enjoying the companionship they provide has been shown to help reduce feelings of isolation and loneliness.
7. Become a volunteer host or driver with Contact the Elderly where you can find enjoyment and fulfilment in monthly afternoon teas!
8. Introduce older people to Facebook! They can look up and reconnect with old friends they may have lost contact with over the years.
- Thanks to Jane Sandwood, Content Manager at Elder Care organisation VIDA
"We all have a responsibility to ensure the older generation remain included and connected to the wider community"